Saturday, August 20, 2011

How Social Media has changed the way I think & learn (Part 3)


Last October I started my Masters degree (MEd) with the University of Hull, done entirely online. Seems fitting, especially as the subject was in fact online learning! I thought I knew quite a lot about the subject from producing on-demand software tutorials and briefing modules for examiners, and I was expecting the course to build on that, which it did. What I wasn't prepared for was the ongoing, subtle change in the way that I interacted with the other people on the course.

Because the majority of interaction between me and my fellow students took place through an online forum, the nature of our communication took on a unique property which allowed us to have conversations over time - 'asynchronous' is the proper term. Whilst human beings have been doing this through letters for centuries, having all the messages channelled through a central forum allowed for a strange hybrid form of communication, somewhere between normal written correspondance and a real time conversation. I've often found myself losing my place in a conversation because I'm trying to think of a meaningful, considered response to someone - but by then that 'thread' of the conversation is lost because people have moved on. Not so with a forum.

Communicating in this way has allowed me to get the best of both worlds: interaction with many people, and the chance to consider my responses. No, wait, it's actually more than the sum of its parts, because I get an extra synergy from talking to people this way, and that's the ability to change my attitude. This way I can learn from my mistakes without the usual embarassment that I might feel in a social setting. If anything I've become more willing to dare to express controversial opinions, because the ethos of the medium does seem to encourage experiential learning. No more 'drill and fill' for me thank you very much!

So, in short, I've gone from being a solitary learner to a social one, and because I can take my attitude with me wherever I go, that new behaviour can translate to the face-to-face setting as well.